Flypaper

The American Federation for Children (AFC) recently released its third annual poll on school choice. The national poll surveyed just over 1,000 likely voters early this January via phone calls.

To determine general support and opposition, AFC posed the following question: “Generally speaking, would you say you favor or oppose the concept of school choice? School choice gives parents the right to use the tax dollars associated with their child’s education to send their child to the public or private school which better serves their needs.” By and large, the findings indicate broad support for school choice—68 percent of those surveyed support school choice compared to 28 percent who oppose it. These results are similar to previous years: 69 and 70 percent of likely voters who expressed support for school choice in 2015 and 2016, respectively.

In addition to overall percentages, AFC broke out the survey numbers by specific demographic groups. Seventy-five percent of Latinos and 72 percent of African Americans support school choice compared to 65 percent of Whites. In terms of political affiliation, 84 percent of Republicans support school choice (up slightly from 80 percent in 2016), compared to 55 percent of Democrats (down from 65 percent...

The major charge against Betsy DeVos—and certainly the one that the writers at “Saturday Night Live” recently ran with—was that she doesn’t know enough about “school” to be Secretary of Education. She hasn’t been a teacher, a principal, or a superintendent. She doesn’t know how to pick a curriculum, evaluate an instructor, or write an Individual Education Plan for students with disabilities.

All true. And if she were seeking employment as a teacher, a principal, or a superintendent, that experience gap would be damning. But she’s not.

President Trump selected her to be the U.S. Secretary of Education. That person’s job is to do education politics and policy—to work with members of Congress and governors, to understand how a bill becomes a law, to provide moral support to reformers as they fight it out in the states and at the local level. With her decades of involvement in politics, with policymakers, and in the trenches of the parental choice movement, DeVos is an inspired choice for the job that the Senate confirmed her for yesterday.

Which isn’t to say that the millions of teachers and parents who flooded social media and the Congressional switchboard to urge her rejection had...

Patrick Riccards

Five years ago, I felt like public enemy number one when it came to education. Despite my fifteen years in education policy, including time spent chairing a local school board, and my standing as a father of two school-aged kids in public schools, I was accused of single-handedly trying to destroy public education in Connecticut.

As I helped lead the fight for the most significant education reform legislation in the Nutmeg State in a generation, I had my tires slashed at a public event. My kids’ teachers, when I went to school to volunteer, literally refused to speak to me. I was depicted in the media as everything from Penguin the Batman villain, to a carpetbagger, to a Klansman. And I was branded a privatizing profiteer, seeking to get rich off the backs of poor children and overworked teachers.

Essentially, I was “DeVossed” before getting DeVossed was cool. I was deemed an outsider because I had never been a classroom teacher, and I was trying to disrupt the status quo in public education. It didn’t matter what background and experiences I brought to the discussion. It didn’t matter that I had a history of successfully working with teachers and teachers...

Larry Sand

The teachers unions don’t just screw over kids, they also screw over new teachers. Millennials beware.

The above tweet from Mike Petrilli, president of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, tells a dismal story. To followers of Pension Tsunami, UnionWatch and Transparent California, the looming pension disaster for taxpayers is not news. But what has gone under-reported is that young teachers entering the field are carrying a disproportionate amount of the load. And if those teachers don’t make teaching a career for life, they become victims of a reverse Robin Hood scenario—where the “haves” are stealing from the “have-nots” and the “haven’t yets.”

All this is spelled out in a Fordham Institute report authored by Martin Lueken, director of fiscal policy and analysis at EdChoice. As the introduction to the detailed 378 page analysis states, “A new teacher’s pension is supposed to be a perk. The truth is that for the majority of the nation’s new teachers, what they can anticipate in retirement benefits will be worth less than what they contributed to the system while they were in the classroom, even if they stay for decades.” The even sadder news is that, cowed by...

“You’re fired!” For many New Yorkers, the chance to say those words to our next President can’t come soon enough. But barring an impeachment miracle, they'll have to wait several years for that chance.

So what say you, reader? Do you need four or eight more years to form an opinion about Trump—pro or con? How long does it really take to know if someone isn’t the right fit for a job?

Obviously, the President is a special case. Still, the question stands, and the answer matters, especially when it comes to another key role in our democracy: the public school teacher. Like the President’s performance, a teacher’s performance has grave consequences—not just for kids’ academic achievement but for their long-term prospects.

Unfortunately, as we document in a recent analysis, Undue Process: Why Bad Teachers in Twenty-Five Diverse Districts Rarely Get Fired, in most places, dismissing an ineffective teacher remains far too hard. And in New York City and state, it’s particularly challenging.

Because data on teacher dismissals are nearly impossible to come by, our report focuses on the dismissal process as it exists on paper—that is, as articulated in state and district policy. Specifically, we evaluated districts based...

“Winners never quit and quitters never win.” There's a lot of truth in that cliché, but it doesn't seem to apply to education. When it comes to chronically low-performing schools, in many cases, the better – and more courageous – course is to “quit” and close a school that is simply beyond repair.

In recent years, attempts to turn around failing schools are most closely linked to the Obama Administration’s supercharged School Improvement Grant (SIG) program. Between 2010 and 2015, the federal government spent $7 billion in efforts to turnaround low-performing schools. In exchange for these funds, grantee schools pledged to implement prescribed interventions, such as replacing personnel or changing instructional practices.

The returns: Not much—or perhaps not clear—according to a massive study by Mathematica and the American Institutes for Research (AIR). The study examined schools in the 2010 SIG cohort and tracked pupil outcomes through three years of implementation. Using data from twenty-two states, their analysis found that SIG had no significant impact on students’ state math or reading test scores. Nor did they find any evidence that SIG increased pupils’ likelihood of high school graduation or college enrollment. Further, the analysts didn’t even uncover...

Gary Larson’s famous comic strip The Far Side was as insightful as it was hilarious. But given the recent consternation in the education reform movement, one of his best comes to mind. In it, two bears are caught in the crosshairs of a rifle. The one most clearly in the hunter’s sights points nervously at the unsuspecting companion to his right.

The comic sheds a great deal of light on the behavior of many charter school advocates with the now-increased interest in private school choice bubbling up in D.C. with Betsy DeVos’s nomination as education secretary.

What’s unfortunate is that the self-preservation instinct in this instance, which would make private school choice the target, is shortsighted, both for our kids and for the politics of advancing “choice” for all America’s children not lucky enough to win the parent or ZIP code lotteries.

For starters and perhaps most poignantly—and again to Larson’s work—both bears are actually in danger, with the question being, simply: Whom will the hunter pull the trigger on first?

Private school choice fights are long-standing and contentious in states like Florida, where the teachers union just lost a three-year battle to have the program,...

A new report by the Education Commission of the States (ECS) examines how varied “open enrollment” policies are across America.

Open enrollment allows students to transfer from their assigned school to another public option, either within their district (intra-district) or outside (inter-district). Forty-six states and the District of Columbia have laws permitting open enrollment, but these vary widely. For example, Connecticut has mandatory open enrollment in four cities but voluntary arrangements statewide, while Vermont makes inter- and intra-district open enrollment mandatory, but only for high schools. Alabama, Illinois, Maryland, and North Carolina are the four states that lack open enrollment policies.

The report attempts to make sense of this multifarious landscape with a two-page table summarizing open enrollment policies for each state, as well as brief overviews of how the policies account for student transportation and how transfer requests can be prioritized if demand exceeds available space.

Transportation can be a limiting factor for students seeking to take advantage of open enrollment, but of the thirty-five states with laws addressing the issue, most push the responsibility to parents, while some states like Arkansas and Massachusetts require the districts from which students are transferring to provide transportation in certain cases, such...

My biggest takeaway from five years of teaching fifth grade in a South Bronx public school was this: much of what I had been taught about why my students struggled with reading comprehension and literacy was simply incorrect, and almost certainly doomed to fail.

There was no conspiracy at work. No impersonal forces lined up to keep the majority of my students—all of them black or brown; all of them low-income—achieving below grade level. And forget what you think you know about teacher incompetence, institutional indifference, or the malign effects of teachers unions. My school was, in the main, filled with earnest people trying hard and failing. Not despite their training, but because of it. Our efforts were praiseworthy, but insufficient because we were overlooking something essential.

The one man whose work accurately described what I was seeing in my classroom every day was E.D. Hirsch, Jr., of Cultural Literacy and Core Knowledge fame. What was odd, however, was that every time I would invoke his name in my grad school classes or in various professional development sessions, I’d hear some variation of this response: “Oh, that ‘dead white guy’ stuff? Nobody takes that seriously.”

If you’re familiar with...

A working paper released by the Hutchins Center this month argues that increased federal investment in educational research and development could narrow income-based achievement gaps, especially if those dollars are used to expand data-driven innovation and decentralize some of the policymaking process. In particular, the author identifies three policy areas the feds should target: school accountability, teacher performance, and undergraduate financial aid.

School accountability measures have had some success in narrowing the achievement gap, but they are not enough, argues the paper’s author, Sarah Turner. There is still an ample amount of inequality of opportunity owing to differences in family resources and circumstances. Families in the top income quartile are able to spend over six times as much on educational enrichment as those in the bottom quartile, giving them a clear advantage. Yet, according to Turner, the government can change this if it invests in high-quality assessments that states can tailor to local contexts to ensure the only schools available to the public are of sufficient caliber.

On the issue of teacher performance, value-added data clearly show that high-quality educators improve student achievement. Therefore, having more of them in low-income schools would also narrow achievement gaps. To help accomplish this,...

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